August 8, 2012
We are praying again. This time for the victims at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. This time it appears to be a hate crime, not the action of a single unbalanced individual. But weren't the Colorado killings hate crimes at the most
fundamental level? This time the shooter may have made a mistake. The Sikh community is not Muslim. Would it have been acceptable if the targets had been Muslim? This time the weapon was a pistol, not an assault weapon.
Our prayers are genuine this time as well. Prayers for the innocent victims and their families. Prayers for the Sikh leaders who had reached out to build relationships in their community. Prayers for the children. Heart-felt prayers.
The son of the slain leader of the Sikh community talked about "soft violence," about so many members of their community finally telling the stories of how they have been personally targeted with derision, exclusion and non-lethal
As a person of color, this time, like last time, I find myself so thankful that the shooter was white. I fear the retribution should a person of color ever commit such an act. I'm not proud of that reaction, but it is real.
We are praying again. Tonight I will be at a prayer vigil at the Sikh Temple in Vancouver. But the question remains. What more can we do beyond our prayers? How much violence are we willing to accept? When will we begin to take actions
that signal there is a limit?
Below is the message I wrote just two weeks ago. I find there is not much more to say. When will we begin?
Rev. Bill Sinkford, Senior Minister
What is there to do, once we have prayed for the victims of the Colorado massacre and their families? What is there to do, once we have prayed for ourselves and our society?
I am still in a state of shock. I feel profound compassion for the victims of this pointless violence. But I have also felt fear. Would you go to a movie this week? If you have children, or grandchildren, would you allow them to go?
But two days after the massacre, it is anger and frustration that I cannot shake. Anger that our leaders will most likely do nothing to prevent another such tragedy. There was no action after Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or Gabby Giffords,
or any of the other 60 cases of mass killing that have taken place in just the last 18 months (The Brady Campaign).
"Nothing" has been our consistent response. That lack of action speaks so much louder than our words and our prayers. Our inaction says that we are willing to accept these killings and I cannot find a corner of my heart where I can call
such pointless violence acceptable.
Our current gun laws maximize the opportunities for this tragedy to repeat again and again. Every gun carried by the Colorado shooter was purchased legally, as were his 7000 rounds of ammunition and the body armor he wore. Rigorous
background checks, based on what we know of him now, would have raised no concerns. Waiting periods…no help there…he had been planning this assault for months.
The US Supreme Court has recently ruled not once but twice that the Second Amendment to the Constitution means what it says, that individual citizens have the right to own and carry guns. But even the Supreme Court ruled that there is a
place for limitations on that right. Are over 30,000 gun deaths a year a price we must be willing to pay for that Second Amendment freedom? There are 20 times as many gun deaths in the United States every year as in the rest of the 22
industrialized countries combined.
What is there to do after our prayers? There is some advocacy we can do right now. Mayors are on the front line of dealing with the epidemic of gun violence and 700 of them (including our own Sam Adams) are members of Mayors Against
Illegal Guns. You can sign a petition to support their efforts here:
Or support the Brady Campaign's persistent efforts to control gun violence:
I do not have a simple solution to offer. I wish I did. Nor am I naïve. I know the political deck is stacked against a change in our direction as a nation. But I also know that our silence will signal acceptance of the way things are.
What we can do is to guide our actions in the days ahead by our deep and religiously grounded refusal to accept an epidemic of gun violence as the price we must pay for being together. Love your neighbor is at the heart of every religious
gospel I know.
As New York Mayor Blumberg said on Saturday: "This has got to stop."
It is a blessing that we can find a sanctuary for our shock, our fear, and our frustration at First Church. Prayer is necessary in these days, but prayer is not enough.